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CMJ Q&A: Jason Isbell



When Jason Isbell left the Southern rock group Drive-By Truckers three years ago, some fans wondered how he’d fare as a bandleader. After all, instead of contributing two or three songs per album, he’d now have to fill up the entire record himself. Isbell quickly proved he had plenty of music in him, delivering two strong solo albums full of soulful roots music and detailed yarns.

We spoke with Isbell during a break from his national tour.

Your last album came out more than a year ago. Are you working on a new one? We’ve recorded most of another one. It should be out early next year.

What are the new songs like? There are a lot of story songs. There’s a song about coming home after fighting in a war. There’s another one that’s an oil spill song. I’m from Alabama and was heavily affected by that.

Where do you find inspiration for the stories in your songs? People are everywhere and they love to tell you what’s wrong. Inspiration comes from what I hear from people around me — people I spend time with at the pool hall, people in my family, other musicians, people I went to high school with.

What music are you listening to these days? The new Centro-matic EP coming out is really, really good. I like Deer Tick. I also like Mary Gauthier’s new record.

Where are you looking forward to visiting while you’re in New York? I like to go to The Lakeside Lounge and stay out too late. I also like Patsy’s. It’s right underneath the old Atlantic studios. I like to think about all the people who ate lunch there.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Highline Ballroom, 431 W. 16th St., Oct. 20, 8 p.m., $15 adv/$18 day of show


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